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South Africa: Five trends employers can expect in the workplace in 2023

20 March 2023
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For many companies March signifies the beginning of a new financial year. Although every company is unique, the following trends can be expected in the workplace in the coming year.

  1. Remote work across countries

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world of working in numerous ways. One of these changes involves the realisation that employees are able to work remotely and can do so productively. As a result, employers will now often have to grapple with the question of whether they can employ individuals who are not permanently residing in South Africa with the intention that those employees will tender their services remotely from a different country. Some of the issues that employers will need to consider in this regard relate to the applicable jurisdiction governing the employment relationship, tax implications, and management of discipline and performance.

  1. The impact of the new Code on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace

It has been approximately one year since the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace came into effect. Most employers would, by now, have had an opportunity to implement new harassment policies in the workplace and to ensure that employees are trained on the different forms of harassment. As a result, it is likely that there will be an increase in reported cases of alleged harassment. This will necessitate an increase in investigations and potential disciplinary hearings. All allegations of harassment should be handled confidentially and with sensitivity.

  1. Increase in industrial action

With the cost of living constantly on the rise due to high inflation, minimum-to-average wage increases will be insufficient to satisfy employees who are extremely frustrated by, and struggling to come to terms with, the increasing cost of living. It is therefore anticipated that employees will demand higher wages and increased benefits. Employers, on the other hand, are wrestling with the impact of a battered economy. As a result, there is likely to be significant breakdowns in wage negotiations which will result in an increase in industrial action and workplace hostility. Employers, and the country at large, should brace themselves for more strikes this year.

  1. Increase in retrenchments

In addition to high inflation, South Africans are faced with the increasing challenge of loadshedding. The scarcity of power can have dire consequences, particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses. The impact of loadshedding on the country’s economy cannot be downplayed. As a result, businesses may find themselves in positions where their operational requirements may require that certain positions are made redundant in order to minimise costs and ensure survival during these turbulent times. This will increase the possibility of retrenchments significantly.

  1. Demand for flexible working models

Talent management and retention will continue to be a challenge for employers. This will increase the bargaining power of skilled employees and enable them to make increasing demands on prospective employers. We anticipate that flexible working arrangements will be top-of-mind for employees. Flexible working models, often in the form of hybrid working, enable employees to be productive from any location while allowing them the opportunity to attend to other personal commitments such as school drop-offs and pick-ups. This demand has become a non-negotiable requirement for many employees and companies will need to ensure that they have policies in place to accommodate for this if talent is to be retained. Loadshedding has had an inevitable impact on the ability of employees to work remotely. The impact of loadshedding will need to be factored into business considerations and planning of hybrid models.

All things considered it looks to be an interesting year ahead where forethought and planning will be essential to enable businesses to face and master the myriad of challenges that we are likely to continue to confront.